When you think of activities that may contribute to back pain, hunting might not be the first one that pops into your head. However, sitting in a tree stand isn’t easy on the spine and the muscles that support it. Plus, there are other ways hunting for the perfect game can affect the spine, including injuries from falls and accidental gun discharges. If you’re an avid hunter, Beverly Hills spine surgeons from The Spine Institute suggest keeping the following tips in mind to prevent back pain and other spine-related injuries.
Opt for a Professional Tree Stand
It may be tempting to stick with a tree stand that’s been in the family for years, but it’s better to go with a professional stand that’s likely to be more durable and safe. Look for a stand that meets current Treestand Manufacturer’s Association guidelines. There are different types of commercially available tree stands. Ladder stands are safe for most hunters to climb. Climbing stands are light and mobile. Hang-on stands are more versatile, but you’ll have to carry your climbing apparatus with you. If you have existing back issues, you may want to skip this type of stand. Also, when choosing a tree stand, take the following factors into consideration:
- Weight limits – Limits for tree stands generally range from 300 to 500 pounds, depending on the configuration and the number of hunters it’s designed to support
- Quality of materials used – Ideally, you need a stand sturdy enough to remain stable for many hunting seasons
- Movement within the stand – You’ll have less risk of back pain with a stand that provides room for you to stand and stretch now and then
Watch Your Tree Stand Height
When hunting, you should be high enough from the ground so your scent doesn’t keep animals away. However, you shouldn’t go so high that a fall might lead to a serious spinal cord injury. The general recommendation is about 20 to 25 feet, although there are some valid reasons to go a bit higher. No matter what height you choose, check the sturdiness of the tree first to avoid another potential fall hazard.
Be Responsible with Alcohol
Hunting with buddies is a good time to relax, but you should watch your alcohol consumption, especially right before you plan to go hunting. Aside from not being legal, hunting while intoxicated can increase the odds of falling or accidentally discharging a gun.
Use a Safety Harness
Regardless of how experienced you are, there’s always the risk of losing your footing or slipping off your seat when startled by the sudden appearance of game. Err on the side of caution and use a safety harness for added peace of mind.
Be Well-Rested Before You Hunt
Getting a good night’s sleep before you go to your preferred spot can keep you from nodding off and falling from your tree stand. If you’re not sleepy, you’re also more likely to be mindful of your posture during the hours spent in your stand, which is also a good thing for your spine.
Most instances of back pain associated with hunting are preventable if you take the right precautions. If you do fall from a tree stand, which is the most common source of hunting-related spine injuries, don’t automatically assume you’re fine if you have no immediate symptoms. Since most hunters dress in layers, it’s entirely possible to experience related pain later if swelling affects nerves around your spine.
If you’ve injured your back while hunting or engaging in another physical activity, get in touch with The Spine Institute to see what your treatment options are. We specialize in a wide array of minimally invasive procedures, from spinal cord stimulation to transforaminal interbody fusion. Beverly Hills patients should call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.